Thursday, June 6, 2013
Review: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
Title: Catch of the Day
Author: Kristan Higgins
Rating: 4 Stars
Sometimes, one book is enough for you to tell that an author is about to become your favorite. Catch of the Day may not be my favorite romance book around, and really, it isn't much of a romance book at all, but Kristan Higgins may be one of my favorite authors, merely because she chose to step out of the typical bubble of romance and explore something entirely different with this book. If, as I suspect, she's done the same with her other novels as well, then the two of us are on the way to becoming fast friends. Quite simply put, Higgins writes a novel with heavy emphasis on family, with protagonists who are struggling to find their way, and hunks whose love stories are so very understated, but still manage to make you swoon.
From the very first page, Higgins has us laughing as she regales to us the tale of her protagonist, Maggie, and her woefully misplaced crush on the priest, Tim. As a protagonist, Maggie is hilarious. With her naivety and big mouth, she often finds herself in embarrassing situations, but she treats it all with a smile and serves the people of her small town, Gideon Cove, with a constantly cheerful face. Yet, despite her volunteering, successful restaurant business, and adorable dog, Maggie yearns to settle down and have children, much like her twin sister, Christie. Usually, I tend to turn all feminist on women - or characters - who have no ambition in life but to find a husband. Quite thankfully, Maggie isn't one of those ladies. Instead, she's a fiercely independent and headstrong protagonist who simply wants something a little more from her life. Although she hasn't had much luck in the romance department, she truly makes an effort and tries - for herself and not for the countless neighbors (or her mother) who remind her that her time is flying by fast. And yet, the reason I enjoyed this book so much is not so much because of Maggie, but more so because of her growth. As the novel wears on, Maggie slowly comes to realize that despite everything, she is perfectly content with her life just the way it is. Sure, she'd love it if she met someone and fell madly in love and married and had kids, but it isn't integral to her happiness. And I love this. I love books that assert the fact that us humans can find happiness in our lives, no matter our age.
Nevertheless, despite that prevalent theme, I won't deny that I adored the romance in this novel. Catch of the Day focuses primarily on Maggie and her relationships - whether it be with Father Tim, a good friend; her beloved sister, Christie; her parents, who are finding their own paths in life too, despite their age; her old neighbors; the staff at her restaurant; or just the people of her small town. As such, the true romance element in this novel doesn't jump out immediately and when it does, it remains muted and subtle, fading easily into the background as the interactions between Maggie and the strong-but-silent Malone are few and far between. Yet, this only creates an entirely realistic setting between these two. Maggie and Malone are not the young eighteen to twenty-somethings bombshells of New Adult who hook up and are surprised as they begin to fall for each other. No, the relationship between Maggie and Malone is unexpected, surprising, and awkward. It is filled with silences, but also with sweet moments. With truthful confessions, and even a little unnecessary drama. And yet, at the end of the day, I was wholly invested. One of the things I love about it is that Malone never enters Maggie's life and changes her or vice versa. Maggie and Malone retain their individual lives, but they make room for each other too. Although they fall in love with one another, despite Malone's long silences and surly glances, their lives change because of themselves and their own wishes.
Of late, I seem to be obsessed with novels where the protagonist finds themselves and what they want from life all on their own. And I love that that idea is repeated in this book not once, but twice. Sure, Maggie ultimately comes to terms with her life, but so does her mother. Higgins dares to explore the contentious relationship between a thirty-something woman and fifty-something mother. And while I myself cannot relate directly, I know for a fact that a woman's relationship with her mother is something that is constantly growing, constantly changing. I see it with my own grandmother and my mother and someday, I'll see it mirrored in my own life too. For me, Higgins broke so many typical barriers of romance and truly created a novel that was heartfelt, inspiring, and still ever-so-slightly full of swoon. While I will admit that the ending to this was too abrupt and a scene or two was slightly cliche, Catch of the Day was the perfect spring-into-summer read. Kristan Higgins, I will have more of you in my life. (Malone, you too!)